Singapore, 18 October 2018 – A total of S$135,000 in cash prizes was handed out to five winning teams of the 2018 DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia (SVC Asia). This is a competition that identifies and supports ideas and social ventures that demonstrate positive, scalable and sustainable social impact within the region. 2018 marks the fifth year that this initiative has been held, jointly organised by NUS Enterprise, the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore, and DBS Foundation. This year, 870 entries were submitted from 42 countries in Asia. This is the highest number of participating countries for this competition, evidence of the growing interest in social entrepreneurship within the region.
Top Prize (S$50,000) – Science for Society Technologies (India)
Science for Society (S4S) Technologies is a food preservation company that has developed the Solar Conduction Dryer (SCD). This is a solar-powered, electricity-free food dehydrator that allows farmers to preserve their produce for up to a year, without using any chemicals. This process is more hygienic and retains 45% more nutrition, flavour and colour compared to open-sun drying. It is also two to three times cheaper than other solar-powered dryers and most farmers are able to pay for the unit within 100 days. The SCD are sold to small and marginal women farmers to produce dehydrated food products, such as dried ginger and turmeric.
“We have sold about 2,000 units of our Solar Conduction Dryer, across 23 states in India and 8 countries around the world. Typically, each unit has an impact on 5 neighbouring families, so we have made impact upon some 10,000 families. In addition to helping farmers extend the shelf-life of their produce, S4S Technologies buys back their dehydrated fruits and vegetables for our own product line of vegetable chips. Moving forward, we plan to set up another 2,000 units in another 100 villages over the next 12 months, and our win at SVC Asia will help us to extend this impact,” said Nidhi Pant, Co-Founder of S4S Technologies.
SVC Asia First Runner up (S$30,000) – Innaumation Medical Devices (India)
Innaumation Medical Devices has developed an affordable voice prosthesis device for laryngectomy patients (those who have had the surgical removal of the larynx usually due to cancer). Prosthetic voice devices typically cost US$500 to US$1,000 each, which is out of reach for many patients in India. Dr Vishal Rao, a surgical oncologist at Health Care Global, teamed up with a friend and industrial engineer Shashank Mahesh, to co-develop the Aum Voice Prosthesis. This is a small platinum-cured silicon device that can be inserted into the throat of laryngectomy patients to restore their voice. They plan for the device to be priced at around US$1. Established in 2016, Innaumation Medical Devices have set up a factory in Bangalore with cleanroom specifications and are gearing up for commercial production.
“Our aim for Innaumation Medical Devices is to make science accessible for everyone. The Aum Voice Prosthesis is just the start. The SVC Asia prize money will be used in manufacturing and distributing this device, firstly in India and subsequently to global markets. Innaumation Medical Devices is also working on a number of other innovations, including a tracheostomy tube that allows speech, mixed/augmented-reality glasses for surgical magnification and video recording, and a device that translates EEG brain waves into speech,” said Dr Vishal Rao, Co-founder of Innaumation Medical Devices.
SVC Asia Second Runner up (S$20,000) – ATEC* Biodigesters International (Cambodia)
ATEC* Biodigesters International produces and distributes an innovative biodigester that converts animal manure and kitchen waste into biogas for cooking and organic fertiliser for farming. Each biodigester system can produce up to 1,500 litres of biogas per day and 20 tons of organic fertiliser per year. This solution was developed by two Australian NGOs, which subsequently spun-off ATEC* in 2015 as a social enterprise to commercialise the product. ATEC* addresses health problems associated with wood fires, which are similar to cigarette smoking. Other benefits include encouraging better hygiene and sanitation within the household, as well as reducing time spent collecting firewood. The biodigesters are hardy and durable, and can be installed in any environment.
“In Cambodia, cooking with wood actually kills more people than traffic accidents every year, and in particular affects the women and children, who are usually tasked with cooking duties. Currently we have deployed some 800 biodigester systems, providing over 3,500 people with access to clean cooking and improved farming. Moving forward, we aim to reach 2,500 systems per year, and also branch into Bangladesh and Myanmar. The prize money from SVC Asia comes at an opportune time, as we will use this to develop our next prototype, which will have remote monitoring features and also instalment payment options,” said Socheat Cheng, General Manager of ATEC* Biodigesters International.
The HEAD Foundation Innovative Social Enterprise Award, Education (S$20,000) – CMED Health (Bangladesh)
CMED Health is a healthcare start-up that aims to provide regular health monitoring for preventative healthcare. This is done through its AI-driven, cloud-based healthcare solution, which allows users to store, monitor and access their health vitals. Users monitor vital signs, such as blood pressure, blood sugar and BMI, using IoT-enabled, smart medical devices. This data is automatically stored in a secure cloud server, which can be accessed by the user anytime. Users will be educated on their health status and can contact a health professional, if there is an emergency condition. CMED Health provides health services to corporates as well as equips pharmacies to offer health services. CMED also trains health agents to provide these health services across rural locations, educating society’s most vulnerable on the importance of regular health screenings and practices to lead a healthier life. It currently has over 20 health agents, reaching out to more than 30,000 villagers.
“Non-communicable diseases, like diabetes and hypertension often go unnoticed for years, leading to a major healthcare burden. However, these diseases and their consequences are preventable through regular health monitoring – and this is where CMED Health comes in. We partner established companies who develop FDA and CE-certified smart devices and link these to our proprietary software platform and health-risk prediction algorithm, to offer healthcare across rural areas. We now have over 40,000 registered users, and 100,000 health measurements in the system. CMED Health will be investing the SVC Asia prize money into further R&D, as well as expand our operations,” said Moin Chowdhury, Head of Growth, CMED Health.
Experian Powering Opportunities Award (S$15,000) – AfterSchool Education (Hong Kong)
AfterSchool Education, the winner of the Experian Powering Opportunities Award, has developed an online platform that provides students with personalised and affordable learning experiences. The Award recognises social enterprises that successfully harness innovative technologies and aim to improve financial inclusion in the region.
There are some 300,000 secondary students in Hong Kong, with over 90% taking expensive tutorial classes in their goal to achieve better grades. However, traditional tutorial classes are ineffective, as they are not tailored to the individual student. AfterSchool Education uses a gamified social learning platform, which allows students to learn at their own pace, anytime anywhere, for a range of subjects including Science, Business and Languages. Students can review their progress, and the platform indicates areas where they may have a gap and provides learning recommendations. Students can also discuss topics on AfterSchool Education’s online community.
“We aim to provide quality education for everyone, including under-privileged students who may not otherwise be able to afford tutorial classes. We developed a free online learning community app for secondary students. Our next steps are to develop more high-quality content, as well as partner with NGOs to provide support for needy students. The SVC Asia prize money will be used to help us to strengthen our app to improve learning effectiveness as well as marketing to broaden our outreach,” said Ronald Tse, Founder of AfterSchool Education.
In addition to these cash prizes, the SVC Asia winning teams will also receive multi-dimensional support through learning opportunities, access to networks and mentorship assistance.
“It is inspiring to see social entrepreneurs addressing some of Asia’s critical social issues, including pollution, poverty, as well as access to quality education, healthcare and sanitation. Over the past five years, some 4,000 participants have been part of our SVC Asia learning journey, with a total of S$780,000 being given as prizes to 27 teams. These teams have gone on to make social impact amongst their communities, creating a better world for us to live in,” said Professor Wong Poh Kam, Senior Director, NUS Enterprise, who also chaired the final judging panel for SVC Asia 2018.
Said Karen Ngui, Board Member of DBS Foundation and DBS’ Head of Group Strategic Marketing & Communications, “As one of Asia’s leading foundations dedicated to championing social entrepreneurship, we at DBS Foundation have had the opportunity to understand the inner workings of social enterprises across the region by working closely with them and providing the resources they need to thrive. Together with NUS Enterprise, we are heartened to contribute to their growth by building a supportive ecosystem with the DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia. With the right expertise, funding and connections, we believe these social enterprises will be well primed to achieve greater business sustainability and social impact, and to ultimately become the businesses of the future.”
SVC Asia 2018 was held from April to October this year. Shortlisted teams could access online courses, while 10 finalists received training in Singapore and a one-to-one coaching session, before pitching to a panel of judges. These judges made their decision based on the strength of the team, as well as the innovativeness, social impact, market potential and economic/financial model of the business solution. SVC Asia is co-organised by DBS Foundation and NUS Enterprise and supported by Accenture, Experian and The HEAD Foundation.
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